Forbidden Hollywood: The Prowler 1951

Many of the movies I have listed so far were made before the Hayes code was put into place. Others like the one below were done after the fact.  These features had to work hard within the boundaries of Government regulations to get their message across.  By not allowing movies to address certain subject matters.  Filmmakers had to be a bit more creative with their material.  It’s the only time where censorship gave us  some of the most creative stories of that era.

The Prowler

Cast: Van Hefflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell

Writer: Dalton Trumbo (On screen credit Hugo Buttler)

Director: Joseph Loosey

I was at the library one afternoon and saw this movie on one of their shelves.  Thinking that this would be a fun trashy flick, I decided to give it a look.  What I got was a really good film noir that features characters whose motives may differ from what you expect.

Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) believes she sees a prowler on her premises and calls the police to investigate.  One of the cops, named Webb Garwood (Van Hefflin), takes an interest in the woman and the two begin an affair .  Webb is obviously more interested in obtaining the kind of lifestyle she has, rather than a sexual conquest.  Susan is clearly feeling sexually frustrated, since her husband can’t give her a child, and likes that a new person finds her attractive, even though she feels guilty about it at first.  Webb ends up  planning to murder Susan’s husband in a way that will get him off the hook not only with the jury, but with Susan as well.  There is no chance she will confess against him, because then everyone would know about their affair.

At first, I was frustrated with the character of Susan for buying into all of the lies that Webb told her.  Even from the first scene, it’s clear that he has been the one stalking her for a while and may in fact be the prowler she thought she saw at the start.  Yet, I can’t really blame her for getting involved with him, because she was stuck in a loveless marriage and hasn’t had sex in a while.  Even though Webb is a downright despicable person for his actions, he honestly believes that what he is doing is all out of love (when we can clearly see it’s for his own financial gain).

Both Evelyn Keys and Van Hefflin are good in their roles and I really like the sexual tension they both have with each other, without having to speak directly about the subject.  After all, this was written at a time before the ratings system, so a lot of things could not be discussed so openly as they are now.  Sex and sexual thoughts were downright forbidden, so filmmakers had to use a lot of clever techniques to show that their characters had sex or were thinking about it.  Not only did this movie feature characters who had sex, but thought it about too.  It was quite the risk for studios at the time.  Not to mention, the movie is one of the first to show a woman thinking about sex more than the guy.

“The Prowler“‘s original title was “The High Cost Of Living” and the screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted along with other screenwriters during the early fifties with accusations of being a communist.  He had to have someone else be the pen name for the actual credits.  This is a good film that does drag a bit after the murder is committed, but never feels too long.


About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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2 Responses to Forbidden Hollywood: The Prowler 1951

  1. Nice write-up 🙂 I’d like to check this one out

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